As I watch Cantor, Boehner, Obama, Reid and McConnell embarrass themselves over the debt-ceiling melodrama, I can’t help but think if they just came to one selectmen meeting here in Swampscott, Mass., they’d finally understand how laughable the federal government has become.

As I watch Cantor, Boehner, Obama, Reid and McConnell embarrass themselves over the debt-ceiling melodrama, I can’t help but think if they just came to one selectmen meeting here in Swampscott, Mass., they’d finally understand how laughable the federal government has become.


In our town of 13,000 there is a town administrator and five elected selectmen. None of us know or care which political party the other one favors. It’s irrelevant. All we know is that on a monthly basis there are issues to be resolved and annually a budget to balance.


There is no credit card calculus here. Property taxes are already exorbitant, services are being cut by the state (which continues to send down unfunded mandates), yet we have a budget that must be abided by.


We have special interests (NIMBY folks), climate change issues (waste reduction plans to provide incentives towards recycling), and massive entitlement debt (public employee pensions). Sound familiar?


In an era where 90 percent of our nation’s wealth is in the hands of 10 percent of the population and highly profitable corporations and unions dictate how Congress act, it’s difficult for the average citizen to understand what our federal government stands for anymore.


The math is simple. If people are living longer, then retirement ages need to be increased. If rich people are making too much money because they can game the system, either change the rules or have them pay a higher rate of income tax. If importing oil is bad foreign policy and pollution is bad for the environment, provide incentives for businesses and consumers to change energy use. If the drug war isn’t working (anyone ever hear of prohibition?), then try a new angle – legalization and taxation. Is anyone shocked by the healthcare mess when it’s the only required insurance that consumers don’t have to shop for? Imagine if people scouted the best deals on health insurance as they do for auto, home and life?


I see incredible innovation across this country every day, but only at the local level. Why? Because municipal officials are not running for re-election the day we take office and we live in the communities we govern. In other words, we have to face people who are affected by our decisions every day.


Additionally, as Albert Einstein said, “necessity is the mother of all invention.” Municipal government lives by a principle of not only living within its means but as a result is forced to be creative in solving the constant services/budget conflict.


The view from north of Boston is that our government is completely upside down.


Local rule and a greater role in how our tax dollars are spent should be increasing while state and federal power should be waning. How is it that someone in Washington can lend money to bankers (whose C-level executives are earning millions and then spending to influence policy) at 0 percent, but our town has to borrow at 5 percent? How can the judiciary branch of the federal government believe that individual free speech is the same as corporate free speech? Why is the state telling me how many public safety employees I need, which teachers I can fire, and the type of pension plan I can offer?


The system is broken, and it is time for an alternative. This country is long overdue for a viable third political party, one that is funded only by the people, with term limits, balanced budgets and a host of other improvements. 


We are at a crossroads in the political future of this country and we need look no further than our children for the answer on how to move forward.


Every morning I come downstairs and ask my two children what they want for breakfast. There are three options for cereal: Corn Flakes (democrat), Fruit Loops (republican) and Honey Bunches of Oats (independent). The Corn Flakes are healthy, but taste bland. The Fruit Loops cause cavities, but taste great. The Honey Bunches of Oats are kind of good for you and also satisfy the need for sweetness.


My kids always choose the third-party cereal.


Barry Greenfield is editor and publisher of EfficientGov.com and a selectman in Swampscott, Mass.